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What to see in Italy: the relic of the Holy Hair in Palmi

2021-02-27 10:30

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What to see in Italy: the relic of the Holy Hair in Palmi

The Sacred Hair is a Catholic relic, venerated and kept in Palmi, which traditionally corresponds to a hair of the Virgin Mary.

What to see in Italy: the relic of the Holy Hair in Palmi

The Sacred Hair is a Catholic relic, venerated and kept in Palmi, which traditionally corresponds to a hair of the Virgin Mary. The relic is placed in a shrine in the side chapel of the Co-cathedral of San Nicola. Following this gift, received from the Senate of Messina in 1582, Palmi elected, in imitation of the Sicilian city, Maria Santissima della Sacra Lettera as patron saint of the city and introduced the celebrations of the Varia di Palmi.

photo below:

The reliquary of the Sacred Hair kept in Palmi.



In June 1575, a plague epidemic broke out in Messina, which lasted for about thirty years and killed more than 40,000 people. The disease was brought from the east after the battle of Lepanto and soon spread to Reggio Calabria and the other coasts of Calabria, including Palmi (although to a lesser extent). The citizens of Palmi welcomed all those who fled the Peloritan city and also sent aid such as food and oil through its sailors.

Once the calamity had passed, the city of Messina, as a sign of gratitude to the Calabrian town, passed a resolution by the Senate to donate to the ecclesiastical authorities of Palmi one of the three hairs of the Madonna that it adorned itself with and which were brought to the Sicilian town in 42 AD together with a letter of blessing and protection from the mother of Christ.

In 1582, accompanied during the crossing by a multitude of Palmese boats 'dressed for the occasion', Giuseppe Tigano's vessel brought a reliquary containing one of the three Sacred Hairs from Messina to the Marina of Palmi.

photo below:

Detail of the reliquary. The small oval reliquary in which the Sacred Hair is physically kept.


the reliquary

The silver artefact consists of two parts.

The upper part presents an oval case containing the hair, surrounded by a pattern of floral decorations and a phytomorphic globe with a small apical cross. The lower part would appear to be a portion of a liturgical chalice attributable to the school of Sicilian silverware of the 17th-18th centuries, and there are allegorical ornaments, which form the central node of the shaft, referring to the theme of the Resurrection of Christ.

Cherubim, Christ and the Assumption are alternately represented. The base is chiselled with motifs of plant volutes, putti and the figures of St John the Baptist and St Roch, the town's co-patron saint.

 The two parts are joined by a concentric screw pin.

The shrine

The reliquary was inaugurated on 29 August 2009 and is located in the side chapel of the Co-cathedral of St Nicholas.

It was made of precious marble, skilfully worked by the marble workers Caccamo Vincenzo and sons (Antonio and Carmelo) from Gioia Tauro.

It was designed by the architect Carmelo Bagalà, who used motifs and styles reminiscent of seafaring. The shrine is also adorned with a bas-relief by the artist Maurizio Carnevali.

The work was financed and created by the "Prometeus" association of Palmi, thanks to donations from the townspeople. Above the shrine is a 19th century painting of Mary the Blessed of the Letter.

The Feast of the Sacred Hair

The feast of the Sacred Hair is only celebrated in the years when the feast of the Varia di Palmi is held, when the relic is carried in procession together with the picture of the Holy Mary of the Sacred Letter.

 The feast takes place the day before the transport of the cart of the Varia. The shoulder transport of the relic in procession is the responsibility of the sailors belonging to the Congrega del Santissimo Sacramento e di Maria Santissima del Soccorso, in accordance with a centuries-old privilege of the confraternity.

The reliquary is carried on the shoulders of the sailors in a canopy called a 'Trionfino', which in turn is placed in a scale model of a wooden vessel.


In the Palmi dialect, the phrase 'u jornu d'u Capillu' ('the day of the Holy Hair') was once used to indicate something that never happened;
In an article by Gian Antonio Stella, published in the Corriere della Sera on 24 December 2008, the author cites 'the Sacred Hair of the Virgin Mary of Palmi' as an example of sacredness.

photo below:

The vessel in which the "trionfino" with the reliquary of the Sacred Hair is placed.


fonte :,della%20Concattedrale%20di%20San%20Nicola.

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